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  • Gorgeous historical featuring a missing heir

    Gabriel Rochford left England in disgrace 13 years ago, like the A-Team accused of a crime that he didn't commit (well actually two crimes). He settled in Boston and went into business with his uncle, making a small fortune of his own. He had no intention of returning to England, despite having inherited the title Earl of Lyndale and a stately home six years ago on the death of his uncle, until he receives notification that a dear family friend is being evicted by the heir presumptive. He returns to England reluctantly, under his mother's maiden name of Thorne, determined to do what is right, even if it means marrying and producing the requisite heir and a spare. Lady Jessica Archer has finally determined to seek love and marriage at the grand old age of 25 years, long after her doting family have despaired of her ever marrying, but none of her coterie of eligible gentlemen has roused even the slightest flutter in her heart. Then two very different gentlemen arrive on the marriage mart: the mysterious and mildly grumpy Mr Thorne; and the devastatingly attractive and charming Anthony Rochford, who just happens to be the son of Manley Rochford, the heir presumptive to the Earl of Lyndale. If the missing heir does not materialise within seven years of inheriting the title he is presumed dead and Manley will inherit everything; apparently he is jumping-the-gun and moving in early. When Gabriel first meets Jessica he finds her snooty and entitled, yet oddly she is the woman he decides to marry, perhaps her entitlement will help smooth over the old rumours about his past. For her part, Jessica is attracted to Gabriel but she is frustrated that he only seems to value Lady Jessica's position and not the real her. If he wants to marry her he will have to 'romance' her, get to know and like the woman behind the title and the aristocratic family. I have read other reviews which have complained that seven Westcott novels have resulted in a cast of, what feels like, hundreds of aunts, uncles, cousins, step-siblings et al. I have sympathy with those views, it seemed as though every other chapter had a dinner or a ball in which myriad relatives of Jessica's conspired, interfered and generally tried to remind the reader of the previous novels. I have only read two of the previous novels and so much of the reminders were lost on me, although I did remember Anna and Avery. Overall, Mary Balogh does not disappoint with her sassy heroine and principled hero, her dastardly villains and her gorgeous portrayal of the British aristocracy. Loved it.

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